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BIS LIVES Blog

How to Overcome Guilt

how do i stop feeling guilty

I still remember the hurt. The pain I had as a young girl. Some girls from my class called me to say they were having a sleepover and I wasn’t invited. They made fun of me with their words and the cackles I heard in the background broke my heart in half. I sat their motionless with tears welling in my eyes. How could they be so mean? So cruel? All I wanted was acceptance.

Turning Tables

All of us girls were huddled outside talking about her. That girl who was flirtatious with all the boys. Who was so annoying. That girl we could not stand. We called her. Our words cut the air like a knife as we knew the girl on the other side of the phone had to be feeling depleted, hurt, and crushed. We didn’t care. She was the one we didn’t like.

Unrelenting Guilt

Fifteen years later, I awoke with another dream. A dream about her. The girl who was my best friend on and off throughout childhood, high school, college, and my adult years. I was hurt by her and still carried around that pain, that grief.

On the flip side, I had so much guilt for the pain I caused her. So much so that I often dreamt about her. My unconscious mind would not let me forget my horrible actions. The horrendous words I said. For the deep wounds I left in her and within myself. I was the opposite of what Christ would have been towards her.

Taking it to Christ in Confession

I went to Confession every six weeks, and sometimes more. I was sorry for how I treated her, for being sucked into the actions that my own jealousy and unhappiness caused.

Here I was, years later, living my dream life. Yet I was bound with this overwhelming sense of guilt. I should have been over it by now, yet something inside me could not let it go.

Maybe it was my people-pleasing nature? Maybe it was thinking about my own children and how mean other kids can be? Could it be because I had never said I was sorry?

Taking it to Her

I realized that even though our friendship has endured, we never talked about those few years of heartache. Those years that are filled with just wanting to have friends, for wanting to be loved for who you are.

That is when my spirit was stirred. I realized the only way I could ever overcome this grief that I had, this guilt, was by apologizing directly to her. Then, I had to forgive myself.

A few years ago, that same girl reached out and offered to drive me down to one of our friend’s get-togethers. I was hesitant, since it had been a while since we’d been one-on-one. What would we talk about? Could I finally apologize? Would she forgive me? Would I have the courage to bring up a taboo subject from such a long time ago?

I prayed and prayed. It went something like this, “Lord, please work through me. Please help me to get this off my chest. Help me to speak words of truth and apology. Help me admit my wrong doing. Soften her heart to forgive me, so than I can forgive myself.”

We met up and drove to the friend-get-together. Just before we arrived, as my heart was pounding out of me chest and my body was shaking slightly, I brought it up. I said, “I’m sorry for any pain I caused you in our school days. Please forgive me.”

She didn’t say much. She brushed it off with a shrug and a smile.

Moving Forward

It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. In some way, I was hoping for an apology as well, but that didn’t matter at the moment. What mattered was she forgave me. She allowed me to start over again. I admitted my wrong doing and she accepted me. She accepted me for who I was there and then. She allowed me to move past that dark history that we had. Now, I could move to the light and the future we now have in our friendship.

Even though I was so nervous, I knew the only way I could overcome the guilt I felt from that hurt I caused was to ask for forgiveness. Once that forgiveness was given, I did not wake up from dreams of distress and persecution anymore.

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How to Overcome Guilt

It can be hard to overcome guilt, especially if it involves a circumstance that you know morally or ethically was not acceptable.

How can you overcome this when it clings to your soul, mind, and heart in so many ways?

1. Admit your choice was wrong.

You cannot overcome anything without first admitting to it.

2. Acknowledge the mistake.

As humans, once we stop justifying our wrong actions and try to do better, then we can be healed.

3. Ask for forgiveness.

Being able to admit to ourselves that we made a mistake is a huge step. But once you tell others and ask for forgiveness from them, the relief that is given is unfathomable.

4. Get to Confession.

We have the beautiful Sacrament of Confession. In Confession, our sins can be completely forgiven if we are truly sorry. I often find peace in the words spoken through the priest. Confession allows me to also receive graces that help me strive to do better if other circumstances arise that will tempt me to fall back into those same mistakes or sins.

5. Forgive yourself.

Sometimes we hold ourselves back by not allowing ourselves forgiveness. Yes, it can be hard and we can feel shameful. But as humans, we fall. We make mistakes. We have to learn to love ourselves and forgive ourselves.

The Devil is the one who wants us to think, “Who’s ever going to love you since you did that?” or “You are not worth anything anymore since that happened and you allowed it to happen.”

Don’t believe these lies. Instead, rest in the Lord’s peace knowing that you are worth more than anything. You are a beloved Child of God. You deserve the best and can overcome anything with Him.

6. Receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

The more often we receive Jesus, the more we are filled with His love and graces.

The less we go to Mass, the farther we get from Him. And the farther we get away from Him, the more the world pulls us into the trap of thinking, “Ahhh…I’m fine. I don’t need God. I don’t need to go to church.”

7. Pray.

The last thing that can help us get past our guilt is to continue to pray and strive to grow in grace and virtue. Building our prayer life will help us stay strong and make better choices.

It is in Giving that We Receive

I’m thankful that through this experience, I’ve been forgiven and have learned to forgive myself as well.

We all want acceptance, love, and peace. The only way this can happen is by making amends with the people in our past, forgiving ourselves, and looking toward the future with hope. The hope that is certain that if circumstances arise that tempt us to fall into these sins again, we will say no and move forward. We will not hold a grudge, but instead look to Christ and His example of forgiveness on the Cross.

Do you have a story about a time when guilt was relieved only after bringing your wrongdoing to Confession, apologizing, and forgiving yourself?

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Ann Marschel is a licensed teacher who now is a SAHM. She loves being with her family, going on walks, writing, teaching NFP, and being Catholic!

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